Winnie the Pooh, who is described as F.O.P. (Friend of Piglet), R.C. (Rabbit's Companion), P.D. (Pole Discoverer), E.C. and T.F. (Eeyore's Comforter and Tail Finder), is an unassuming "Bear of Very Little Brain" who is fond of composing poetry and eating honey. His best friend is a piglet called Piglet who is not very brave.
The character was named after a bear named Winnipeg, brought to Britain from Canada and whom Milne and his son often saw at the zoo.
In 1929, Milne sold the Pooh merchandising rights to an American promoter named Stephen Slesinger. It was only one of many properties Slesinger managed, and during his lifetime, not even the biggest — that would probably be the Red Ryder comic strip, which he placed in movies, on radio and elsewhere. Slesinger died in 1953, and his widow inherited the operation.
In 1961, the Walt Disney Corporation bought film and other rights to the character and made a series of cartoon films about him. The early cartoons were based on several of the original stories. However this is not true of the more recent films and television series which Disney have made. The style of drawing used in the cartoons is similar to that of Shepard's drawings although the storytelling style and characterisation has less in common with Milne's tales.
More recently, 1977, Disney has released the animated feature The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, introducing a new character named Gopher. This movie features four segments which include Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, and Winnie the Pooh and a day for Eeyore. This film does not enter the public domain until 2073. Today, Pooh videos, teddy bears, and other merchandise generate $1 billion in annual revenues for Disney--the same amount as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto combined.
In 1991, Shirley Slesinger Lasswell, the widow of Milne's literary agent, who inherited the rights to Pooh, has filed a lawsuit against Disney, claiming that she was being cheated out of merchandising rights to the characters. Although she has collected $66 million, she claims over $200 million more. The suit has been sitting in the American legal system since that time, but was set to come to trial in March, 2003.
The Pooh stories have been translated into many languages, notably including Alexander Lenard's Latin translation, Winnie ille Pu, first published in the 1960s.
Characters in the Winnie the Pooh stories include: